If you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit a modern automotive production facility, you’ll know that the majority of cars today are built on massive automated production lines, where an army of robots and teams of highly-trained staff carry out the intricate ballet of vehicle manufacturing along a constantly-moving production line that can stretch for miles and miles.
In some facilities, humans guide parts into place using specially-designed hydraulic lifts, spending entire shifts working on just one part of the overall vehicle construction. In others — like Tesla’s high-tech Fremont facility in California where the Tesla Model S is made, humans oversee a massive sea of multi-million dollar robots capable of carrying out repetitive operations far quicker and to a far higher standard than any person.
As Toyota’s flagship car for the new millennium, the 2016 Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Sedan is by far the most advanced vehicle the Japanese automaker has made, so it stands to reason that it — like the Tesla Model S — might be made in a state of the art facility with minimal human input. But as a new series of videos released by Toyota this week show, despite its high-tech construction and powertrain, the Mirai is an almost entirely hand-built vehicle.
The five videos — released on YouTube yesterday as part of an advertising campaign for Toyota’s first production fuel cell vehicle — show the various production stages that the Miria goes through at Toyota’s former LFA Works facility at the Motomachi Plant in Toyota City, Japan.
Watching even just a few seconds of one video makes one thing painfully clear: the Mirai is a costly, time-consuming car to produce. Workers in clean overalls diligently work with one another to build each Mirai by hand in dedicated bays. They talk in hushed tones, and the only sound we hear is the occasional work-focused exchange or the buzz of a power wrench.
As we’ve previously explained, the facility where the Mirai is currently being produced was once home to the Lexus LFA V10 Supercar. Produced in limited numbers between 2010 and 2012, the carbon-fibre supercar was hand-built built by a team of highly-skilled artisan staff, hand-picked by Toyota for their attention to detail and high technical proficiency.
After production of the Lexus LFA, the facility was then used to produce a limited-run production of 100 carbon-fibre Lexus F Sport Roadbikes, which Lexus sold for $10,000 each.
Now, those same staff are trusted with building Toyota’s $57,700 hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, churning out just three vehicles a day.
Toyota has previously admitted the LFA Works was given the task of producing the Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan because it needed to ensure that building a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle required the kind of attention to detail and care that’s difficult to replicate in a high-volume production environment, especially given its unique drivetrain.
Watching the videos, we can certainly attest to that attention to detail being lavished on each and every Mirai after its pre-made frame arrives at the facility.
But high-quality, artisan production techniques reinforces what we’ve known all along. The Mirai isn’t a high-volume hydrogen production vehicle. For that, we’ll have to wait until 2020, when Toyota promises we’ll see its second-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
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